Probe of space tourism rocket crash may take year
Mojave, California : Billionaire Richard Branson is promising to find out what caused the crash of his Virgin Galactic prototype space tourism rocket that killed a test pilot, but U.S. federal investigators are cautioning that it may take up to a year to learn exactly what went wrong.
The crash in the California desert almost certainly dashed Branson's goal of starting suborbital flight next spring, but the mogul said that while he remained committed to civilian space travel “we are not going to push on blindly.”
In grim remarks at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the craft known as SpaceShipTwo was under development, Branson gave no details of Friday's accident and deferred to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, whose team began its first day of investigation Saturday.
“Yesterday, we fell short,” he said. “We'll now comprehensively assess the results of the crash and are determined to learn from this and move forward.”
He asserted that safety has always been the top priority of the program that envisions taking wealthy tourists six at a time to the edge of space for a brief experience of weightlessness and a view of Earth below.
The pilot killed in the test flight was identified Saturday as Michael Tyner Alsbury, 39, of nearby Tehachapi. The surviving pilot is Peter Siebold, 43, who parachuted to safety and was hospitalized.